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Elasticsearch Ransomware: Open Source Database Security Part 2

and  | January 18, 2017 |  Posted In: Big Data, JSON

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Elasticsearch RansomwareIn this blog post, we’ll look at a new Elasticsearch ransomware outbreak and what you can do to prevent it happening to you.

Mere weeks after reports of MongoDB servers getting hacked and infected with ransomware, Elasticsearch clusters are experiencing the same difficulties. David Murphy’s blog discussed the situation and the solution for MongoDB servers. In this blog post, we look at how you can prevent ransomware attacks on your Elasticsearch clusters.

First off, what is Elasticsearch? Elasticsearch is an open source distributed index based on Apache Lucene. It provides a full-text search with an HTTP API, using schemaless JSON documents. By its nature, it is also distributed and redundant. Companies use Elasticsearch with logging via the ELK stack and data-gathering software, to assist with data analytics and visualizations. It is also used to back search functionality in a number of popular apps and web services.

In this new scenario, the ransomware completed wiped away the cluster data, and replaced it with the following warning index:

“SEND 0.2 BTC TO THIS WALLET: 1DAsGY4Kt1a4LCTPMH5vm5PqX32eZmot4r IF YOU WANT RECOVER YOUR DATABASE! SEND TO THIS EMAIL YOUR SERVER IP AFTER SENDING THE BITCOINS.”

As with the MongoDB situation, this isn’t a flaw in the Elasticsearch software. This vulnerability stems from not correctly using the security settings provided by Elasticsearch. As the PCWorld article sums up:

According to experts, there is no reason to expose Elasticsearch clusters to the internet. In response to these recent attacks, search technologies and distributed systems architect Itamar Syn-Hershko has published a blog post with recommendations for securing Elasticsearch deployments.

The blog post they reference has excellent advice and examples of how to protect your Elasticsearch installations from exploitation. To summarize its advice (from the post itself):

Whatever you do, never expose your cluster nodes to the web directly.

So how do you prevent hackers from getting into your Elasticsearch cluster? Using the advice from Syn-Hershko’s blog, here are some bullet points for shoring up your Elasticsearch security:

  • HTTP-enabled nodes should only listen to private IPs. You can configure what IPs Elasticsearch listens to: localhost, private IPs, public IPs or several of these options. network.bind_host and  network.host control the IP types (manual). Never set Elasticsearch to listen to a public IP or a publicly accessible DNS name.
  • Use proxies to communicate with clients. You should pass any application queries to Elasticsearch through some sort of software that can filter requests, perform audit-logging and password-protect the data. Your client-side javascript shouldn’t talk to Elastic directly, and should only communicate with your server-side software. That software can translate all client-side requests to Elasticsearch DSL, execute the query, and then send the response in a format the clients expect.
  • Don’t use default ports. Once again for clarity: DON’T USE DEFAULT PORTS. You can easily change Elasticsearch’s default ports by modifying the .YML file. The relevant parameters are http.port and transport.tcp.port (manual).
  • Disable HTTP if you don’t need it. Only Elasticsearch client nodes should enable HTTP, and your private network applications should be the only ones with access to them. You can completely disable the HTTP module by setting http.enabled to false (manual).
  • Secure publicly available client nodes. You should protect your Elasticsearch client and any UI it communicates with (such as Kibana and Kopf) behind a VPN. If you choose to allow some nodes access to the public network, use HTTPS and don’t transmit data and credentials as plain-text. You can use plugins like Elastic’s Shield or SearchGuard to secure your cluster.
  • Disable scripting (pre-5.x). Malicious scripts can hack clusters via the Search API. Earlier versions of Elasticscript allowed unsecured scripts to access the software. If you are using an older version (pre-5.x), upgrade to a newer version or disable dynamic scripting completely.

Go to Syn-Hershko’s blog for more details.

This should get you started on correctly protecting yourself against Elasticsearch ransomware (and other security threats). If you want to have someone review your security, please contact us.

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Manjot Singh

Manjot Singh is an Architect with Percona in California. He loves to learn about new technologies and apply them to real world problems. Manjot is a veteran of startup and Fortune 50 enterprise companies alike with a few years spent in government, education, and hospital IT.

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